Prof. Katherine Smith’s Presentation on Haitian Freemasons at the 40th Annual CSA Conference

Freemasons parade in Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

Freemasons parade in Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

On May 25th, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow Katherine Smith presented her research on Haitian Freemasonry at the 40th Annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference in New Orleans. The Freemasons claim historical roots in medieval stone masonry guilds of Europe and mythological origins in the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. However, the organization, as it is known today, descends from lodges founded in England and Scotland in the 18th century. Masonic symbolism and rituals embodied Enlightenment ideals such as truth, reason, and liberty. The participation of Africans and their descendants in Freemasonry, and other fraternal organizations, complicates our understanding Enlightenment thought and, by extension, the historical formation of modernity. Smith’s paper focused on Haiti and the legacy of the Enlightenment as expressed in Masonic philosophy, aesthetics, and ceremonies in the present.

Freemasons celebrate the eve of Saint John's Day with a traditional bonfire. Jacmel, Haiti,  2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

Freemasons celebrate the eve of Saint John’s Day with a traditional bonfire. Jacmel, Haiti, 2013. Photo by Katherine Smith

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